Pope A Flop As Exorcist

The rules under which the Roman Catholic Church operates are clear that, in normal circumstances, the process by which new Catholic gods and goddesses are generated cannot create a new saint until the candidate for deity has been dead for five years. Apparently, the circumstances concerning recent pope John Paul II are not normal, for his successor, Benedict XVI gave the okay to start the process only a month after JPII was entombed.

Pope Benedict XVI has begun the process of beatifying his predecessor John Paul II, the first step to sainthood.

"The cause for the beatification of John Paul II is open," the new Roman Catholic leader told priests meeting at Rome's Basilica of St John in Lateran.

The Pope waived the usual rules which require a five-year wait before the Church begins to make someone a saint.--Pope seeks to beatify John Paul, (C) 2005 BBC News

One normal requirement for confirmation of a former human's elevation to sainthood and admittance to the pantheon of Catholic gods and goddesses is that two honest-to-goodness miracles be attributed to the ghost of the former living person.

Beatification allows public veneration of the person and for the person to be known as "Blessed". For actual sainthood, proof of at least two miracles is required.Ibid.

With Karol Wojtyla's body still on view, people began reporting alleged miracles they attributed to the intervention of the former pope. Unfortunately for the cause of JPII, all the reported incidents had allegedly taken place while he was still alive. These don't count. I suppose that the Emperor of Catholicism's failures to accomplish a miracle while still alive also won't count against him.

Several years ago, I wrote about one such failure that made headlines all over the world. Shortly after posting the article on my Catholic Stuf website, I received an email from someone who took issue with what I had written. As might have been expected, the apparently Catholic writer attempted to make light of the now fast-tracking former Pope's public failure to exorcise a demon. The writer called upon Scripture to support his effort. His improper understanding of the passage he made reference to provided an opportunity for me to examine the Pope's failure in the light of Scripture.

I re-post my original article here and follow it with the exchange between the Catholic apologist and myself.

* * * * *

An Exorcist He Isn't

Did you read about John Paul II's encounter with a "demon-possessed" young girl in the Vatican? I didn't see anything in my local newspaper, but a friend told me about articles carried in European newspapers today (September 11, 2000)

The report in the London Telegraph appeared under the banner:

Devil defeats the Pope in Vatican
exorcism battle

Boy! That sure grabbed my attention. Think about it. Catholicism's Vicar of Christ locked in battle with Satan in the shadow of Peter's Throne. I can't wait to see the movie.

THE Pope carried out an impromptu exorcism on a teenage girl after she began "screaming insults in a cavernous voice" during an audience in the Vatican City, it emerged at the weekend.--Bruce Johnston, Devil defeats the Pope in Vatican exorcism battle, Electronic Telegraph, September 11, 2000

From what I can gather from the newspapers, the epic battle between John Paul II and the Devil took place last Wednesday, during the pope's weekly audience on the piazza in front of St. Peter's Basilica. According to reports, the pope was about to bless a 19-year-old woman when she began shouting obscenities and other things in Italian and unknown languages.

In another newspaper, I read that:

"Papal aides tried to make the "possessed" teenager drink holy water, but she "pushed it aside in fear and disgust."…Constrained by Vatican guards, she was said to have displayed "a superhuman strength" as she violently pushed them away. Bishop Gianni Danzi, Secretary-General of Vatican City, intervened and sought to calm her by showing her a crucifix. But she began "insulting him, uttering disconnected phrases, and speaking in unknown tongues."" --Exorcist Pope 'cast out demons' in the Vatican, The London Times, September 11, 2000

Wow! All that was missing were head-spinning and torrents of split-pea soup vomit. Danzi reportedly claimed that he quickly "realized who was inside the girl" and informed the pope's personal secretary, Bishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, who passed the word to his boss.--Bruce Johnston, Op. cit.

After being apprised of the situation, the Pope drove around the plaza in his popemobile before meeting with the girl. He spent about half an hour with her, during which time he exorcised her, talked with her and prayed for her. He also promised her he would say a Mass for her the following day "to obtain her liberation."

The Vatican was reluctant to discuss the episode, which was brought to light by the Italian press. The Times' reporter cites an article, The Devil went to the Vatican, in Rome's news daily ll Messaggero. The Italian newspaper claimed to have heard of the incident from a priest, Gabriele Amorth, one of Catholicism's top gun exorcists.

Amorth told the newspaper he and a colleague had made an unsuccessful attempt to exorcise the girl the previous day. He described the girl in glowing terms, lamenting her demonic possession:

She is a splendid girl in terms of purity and goodness. Her case of possession by the Devil is terrible. It moves one to pity to see her suffer so, all bent over and contracted.--Richard Owen, Ibidem

That may have been the case earlier, but surely her situation was resolved by her encounter with the Pontifex Maximus of the Roman Catholic Church, the man it is claimed is Christ's Vicar on earth. Not so.

Despite the Pope's efforts and those of his chief "Satan-buster", Fr. Gabriele Amorth, the girl remained 'possessed'. The Devil's voice "sneeringly laughed from within her" at the Pope's failed attempt to drive him away.--Richard Owen, Ibidem

According to Amorth, last week's action had been John Paul II's third exorcism during his pontificate. Wonder if he had better success the other two times.

Perhaps it would be good at this point to examine just what an exorcism is, particularly as understood by the Roman Catholic Church.

EXORCISM – A rite administered by a person legitimately deputized for the purpose of expelling devils, especially from energumeni…only a priest is permitted to exorcise according to the formulas of the Roman Ritual and after explicit authorization from his bishop…Exorcism supposes that persons and elements may be infested with malign spirits who seek to impede the fruitful use of holy things."--Pietro Parente, Antonio Pilolante, Salvatore Garafolo & Emmanuel Doronzo, Dictionary of Dogmatic Theology, Bruce Publishing Company (1951), p. 97 – has Imprimi potest, Nihil obstat & Imprimatur

Exorcism is a sacramental, a blessing given by the Catholic Church:

Exorcism also belongs to the blessing conferred upon persons. This blessing consists in commanding the devil to depart, in the name of Christ, from possessed persons or things…Cases of possession or obsession by the devil rarely occur in the present day. Exorcism in such cases can be performed only by a priest only with the permission of the bishop.--Francis Spirago, Trans. Richard F. Clarke, The Catechism Explained, revised and updated by Bishop Anthony N. Fuerst, Benziger Brothers, Inc:New York (1961), p. 394 – has Nihil Obstat & Imprimitur

The foregoing is old news, pre-Vatican II. So much in Roman Catholicism has changed in the aftermath of that general council that it seems unlikely exorcism was left untouched. So true. On January 26, 1999, an Italian news agency reported the public presentation of the new way of doing things.

This morning, Cardinal Jorge Medina, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, presented the New Rite for Exorcisms of the Roman Ritual in the Vatican Press Hall. "We know there are Catholics who have not received good formation and doubt the existence of the devil, but this is an article of faith and part of the doctrine of the Catholic Church. Whoever says the devil does not exist is no longer a believer." This was the clear and categorical answer of Cardinal Medina, in response to the question of a reporter about the doubts of many Christians on the existence of the devil.

The new text is an outgrowth of the old. There are no substantial changes or break with the previous text. There are changes in language: the new text has more sober language, with less adjectives. Moreover, it gives the priest who practices the rite of exorcism greater liberty -- greater flexibility in the choice of prayers to use. In a word, there is a new style, in a language more adapted to our time, but the content is the same," Cardinal Medina said.--ZENIT International News Agency, Prefect for Divine Worship on the New Rite of Exorcism, selected from the ZENIT Daily Dispatch, © Innovative Media, Inc; provided by courtesy of EWTN)

Well, I reckon that means John Paul II can't blame his failure to exorcise the demon out of the young woman on unfamiliarity with the new procedure. Could it be that the man does not truly possess the power and authority Catholicism claims he received directly from Christ through an unbroken apostolic succession that began with Matthew 16:18?

By golly. I bet that is precisely what it means. I ask my Catholic readers to consider the value of placing their hopes for eternity in a religious system that can't deliver. Look to the Lord God for mercy and forgiveness. Rome can't provide it.

* * * End of original article * * *

That's the article, now here's the challenge/response:

The Challenge: funny thing is I remember something about some apostles who could not cast out devils either.

The Response: I imagine that the above is meaningful to you. It is not meaningful to me, however.

If you were referring to an article I wrote recalling John Paul II's failure to exorcise a demon from a young woman, then your argument is as weak as apparently is your comprehension of the Scriptures.

I suspect your words are a poor attempt to rationalize the pope's failure by equating his lack of success with that of some of Jesus' disciples, as recorded in Matthew 17:14-21. If that were the case, let's examine briefly that passage. I use the KJV, but I will refer to the New American Bible and the Douay-Rheims Bible as appropriate:

14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,
15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.
16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.
18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
–Matthew 17:14-21

The first thing to note is that the word "apostle" is not used in this passage. In the KJV, as in the NAB and Douay-Rheims, the man who approached Jesus said that Jesus' DISCIPLES could not cure his son and, in verse 19, it is DISCIPLES who approached Jesus in private. There is a significant difference in meaning between the words APOSTLE and DISCIPLE, as these definitions demonstrate:

"DISCIPLE: Those who accepted Jesus' message to follow him are called his disciples. Jesus associated his disciples with his own life, revealed the mystery of the Kingdom to the disciples and gave them a share in his mission, his joy, and his sufferings." p. 875

"APOSTLE: A term meaning one who is *sent* as Jesus was sent by the Father, and as he sent his chosen disciples to preach the Gospel to the whole world. He called the Twelve to become his Apostles, chosen witnesses of his Resurrection and the foundation on which the Church is built. The apostolic office is permanent in the Church, in order to ensure that the divine mission entrusted to the apostles by Jesus will continue to the end of time. the bishops receive their office as successors of the apostles through the Sacrament of Holy Orders..."--Catechism of the Catholic Church, (c) 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc.,

We know, from the Scriptures, that Jesus at one time had a multitude of disciples. This number thinned considerably as Pharisaical opposition to Jesus and His ministry grew. Still, there were some 120 disciples, including the 11 remaining Apostles, gathered in the upper room after witnessing Jesus' Ascension.

13 And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.
14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty)
–Acts 1:13-15

So, how were you able to come up with the information about "some apostles who could not cast out devils either?"

If the Scriptures do not identify which of Jesus' disciples were unable to cast out a demon, there is no reason to believe that those who failed were members of the Twelve. They might just as easily have been some followers of Jesus who had but recently joined the group that walked along with Him. They may have had no real understanding of who He was nor had true faith in Him as the promised Messiah. Do not we see, even today, a number of perhaps well-meaning people who wander about pronouncing oracles they believe to have come from God and attempting to heal the afflicted?

And so, it would appear that the very first shot out of your apologetic cannon was a dud.

But let us continue to examine the passage. Jesus offered two reasons why the effort of the disciples failed. They are to be found in verses 20 and 21: unbelief and the lack of prayer and fasting.

In that you apparently seek to explain John Paul II's failed attempt at exorcism by calling up the account of a similar failure by some unidentified disciples of Jesus, let's take the comparison a bit farther. In that the disciples failed due to their unbelief and apparent failure to pray and fast, then by your comparison, one would imagine that the Pope failed for the same reasons. I can accept that. I don't know whether JP2 fasted before attempting his exorcism, but I do know that the Roman Ritual includes prayers. Yep, I can agree that John Paul II, ruler of the Catholic Church and self-declared Vicar of Christ, failed to exorcise the demon from that young woman because of his unbelief. More correctly, I suppose, one should say because of his misplaced belief in Mary as Supreme Being, rather than God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

See? We're not so far apart after all

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